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05:41 am: Teddy's first adventure in martial arts
When Peter and Teddy went to the fair a few weeks ago, a local martial arts studio had a table doing kids' ID kits (pictures, fingerprints, etc.). They called us to tell us Teddy's kit was ready and oh by the way he can take a free karate class while he's here.

Surprise, surprise.

I'm actually really interested in having Teddy take karate. He's small and shy and slow to feel comfortable with new things, so I figured it might be a good way for him to build confidence. I was planning to enroll him in an introductory class at the local community center. This seemed like an even better way to get an introduction, what with being only one class and free to boot.

He did ok with the class. He can't punch worth a darn, but his kicks aren't bad at all. And his balance, it turns out, is excellent. The instructor had the kids standing on these... ball thingies. More like half-balls, or squishy, under-inflated balls. In any case, the kids stood on them. The other kids were wobbling all over the place and falling off, but Teddy was solid.

He came running out of class saying it was fun, but then he didn't want to do it again. Later on, he said maybe he did want to do it again. :sigh: We'll see what he says when the next opportunity arises.

But he sure as hell isn't going back to that karate school.

Many years and many, many pounds ago, I did Chinese Kenpo, then T'ai Chi. Obsessively, in the former case: 7 days a week, 4 hours a day for several years. It's a period in my life about which I have very, very mixed feelings. I was extremely good at it (go figure! me!). I won a lot of competitions. I rose quickly in the ranks (for my school, which was not very quick at all). I was in terrific physical condition.

Mentally, I was a wreck. My sensei was a sadistic little fuck who messed with my head. To win all those competitions, I had to beat people (not beat as in win - beat as in pummel). I suppressed my natural pacifistic tendencies and was a fucking animal. To say the least, I was very conflicted. I didn't like myself (not even my fantastic body, which really is too bad).

It was a huge relief when I finally quit.

And yet, sadistic little fuck that he was, my sensei was a very, very good instructor and martial artist. For a long time, I thought the sadism was necessary. Then I trained under the president of the European Kung Fu federation (my sensei's sensei's sensei) while I was at Oxford and learned I was wrong. (If I'd been able to continue with that instructor, I might well have stayed with karate.)

When I saw the karate class (and especially the one in the adjoining classroom) Teddy attended, I was appalled.

The instructor of Teddy's class was good. He had real rapport with the kids and seemed to know what he was doing.

But the school? OY. Not only did they suck - the other instructor had no control over his class (spent much of it screaming "stop talking! I can't believe you're still talking!"), most of the instructors hanging around were in bad physical condition, the kids in the other class had no discipline and clearly had not earned the belts they were wearing - but the kids were doing things that will hurt them. Not hurt other people, hurt them. As in, punching with flexed wrists, kicking with straight legs (rising kicks), completely inconsistent/bad kiais, stretching without warming up, etc.


If Teddy decides he's interested after all, we'll try the community center, or look for another local school.

* I know most of you haven't done karate. But for dancers: watching the other karate class would be like seeing a bunch of kids who'd been taking swing for months and were bouncing UP, didn't know rock-step, triple-step, triple-step, and squashed their partners' hands with their thumbs... but were wearing Bleyers and zoot suits (or whatever the hell the equivalent is these days).

Current Location: Longmeadow
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